An altered state of mind or exceptional wakefulness?

Joy Ride
4 min readApr 5, 2021

A single dose of psilocybin “couples” “uncoupled” brain networks

Art by @andeveaux

If consciousness is a state of being awake and aware, does it mean you are unconscious in your sleep?

For many years the majority of researchers considered dreamless sleep being equal to an unconscious state. Consciousness, however, is not a binary on/off state. Many states of consciousness are well known — dreamless sleep, REM sleep, sleepwalking, waking consciousness, vegetative state, and finally, a state of coma. More precisely, sleep is a state of reduced consciousness, and coma is the state of unconsciousness. On that spectrum of consciousness shades, a special place is reserved for a psychedelic state of consciousness.

Traditionally consciousness is defined by simultaneous wakefulness and awareness. According to that definition, REM sleep and vegetative state must be anomalies. REM sleep is considered sleep consciousness opposite to a state of dreamless reduced sleep consciousness. A vegetative state, on the other hand, is wakefulness without awareness. Some parts of the cortex are still functioning in ‘vegetative’ patients.

If there are irregularities to sleep consciousness, there are must be exceptions to wakefulness. Psychedelic drugs perturb traditional wakeful consciousness. Maybe in a good way. Psilocybin, a classic psychedelic (still stigmatized mainly because of antiquated political will), invokes an altered state of waking consciousness. An altered state of mind may be a mind-broadening experience beneficial for treating devastating humankind’s mood disorder and improving brain network connectivity.

The excellent news, in the psychedelic state of wakefulness, the latter is not reduced. Although awareness is altered, it would be misleading to say that it is reduced. It is instead an expansive state of consciousness serving to broaden the consciousness, not to limit.

Consciousness is integrated information.

Let’s say you have learned new concepts (awareness of the information) but failed to integrate the new data to become a whole integral part of your mind. Being aware of data and being able to successfully integrate, two things required for a balanced state of mind.

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Joy Ride

Learner, writer, biotech investor, research translation, drug development, genetics. 4-lingual.